10 images Created 7 Jul 2021
Rescuing the Reef
Scientists on an expedition to the far northern Great Barrier Reef witness the annual mass coral spawning spectacle and look for ways to help this ecosystem under pressure. Each year after a late spring or early summer full moon, a spectacular synchronised coral spawning occurs on the Reef. The Reef’s size contributes to its greatness, and from above resembles a thriving patchwork of healthy individual reefs. Yet scientists now estimate that this marine system, has experienced a 50 per cent loss in living coral cover following unprecedented back-to-back mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, with further bleaching in 2019. GBR Legacy is a not-for-profit social enterprise that brings together scientists, educators, communicators and the general public to engage in reef research. During an expedition in 2017 they identified a site in the worst-affected region that appears to have withstood the worst of the bleaching. The corals at this site are now considered to be resilient ‘super stock’, able to withstand severe heat. I joined GBR Legacy to journey back to the site with a research team from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Dr John ‘Charlie’ Veron, known as the ‘Godfather of Coral’, who wanted to document hard coral species on a rare section of thriving reef. This football field–sized area of healthy coral has now been named the GBR Legacy Super Site – a beacon of hope in a warming sea.